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Hakata Dontaku Guide 2024

Dontaku, originating from the Dutch word Zondag (holiday), is one of Japan’s largest festivals, attracting two million spectators On May 3 & 4, the festivities commence with the Hakata Matsubayashi procession, which has marked the new year for the past 840 years. Daytime performances across 39 stages follow, and in the evening, illuminated “Flower Cars” (decorated vehicles) parade through the streets.

Date: 5/3 (Fri., hol.), 5/4 (Sat., hol.)
Venue: Fukuoka urban area (Hakata-ku ~ Chuo-ku, Fukuoka City)

Photo provided by the City of Fukuoka

Hakata Dontaku 2024 Event Schedule

5/2 (Thu.)
Eve of ceremony

5/3 (Fri., hol.)
Opening Ceremony

5/4 (Sat., hol.)
Dontaku Flower Marching Bands
Grand Finale: So Odori

5/3 (Fri., hol.) & 5/4 (Sat., hol.)
Hakata Matsubayashi Parade
Dontaku Parades
Special Guest Parade Groups
Stage Performances
Flower Cars
Hakata-ekimae Dontaku Street

Dontaku Trivia
• Origins of Dontaku
• A True Citizen’s Festival
• Hakata Matsubayashi
• Dontaku Symbols
• Dontaku Song
• Flower Cars
• Official Goods

2018 Hakata Dontaku video by Madalina Iosub for Fukuoka Now


Eve of ceremony

As the festival kicks off the next day, the citizens of Fukuoka, the Fukuoka Citizens’ Festival Promotion Association, and other Dontaku supporters will gather to celebrate the opening of Dontaku. The event will commence with a performance by the Police Band and the entrance ceremony of Hakata Matsubayashi. This will be followed by a children’s dance and a performance by the previous year’s winning Dontaku team. This year’s special guest is the singer Hitomi, who is celebrating her 30th debut anniversary.

• 5/2 (Thu.): doors open 16:00~ ceremony begins 17:00~20:30
• Venue: Festival main stage (Fureai Hiroba, Fukuoka City Hall)
• Free viewing


Opening Ceremony

The Fukuoka City Mayor, along with festival organizers, makes opening remarks to kick off the festival.

• 5/3 (Fri., hol.)
• 11:00~11:30
• Venue: Main stage in front of Hakata Sta. (JR Hakata Sta.)


Hakata Matsubayashi Parade

The origins of this festival date back 840 years, and its essence has remained largely unchanged. The parade is led by three gods of fortune riding on horseback, accompanied by a group of dancing children. You can check the order and current location of Hakata Matsubayashi in real time to keep up with the festivities.

• 5/3 (Fri, hol.), 5/4 (Sat., hol.)
• 9:00~17:00
• Venue: Departs from Kushida Shrine (1-41 Kamikawabata-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka)

@Kyushu Live!!


Watch the Matsubayashi Parade 2024 – LIVE! on YouTube

Matsubayashi Festival: Dontaku 2023 – Kick-off event! (May 3, 2023)

Dontaku Parades

The Dontaku teams, dressed in various costumes, will celebrate along the 1,270-meter stretch of Meiji-dori, between Gofuku-machi and Tenjin. You can also enjoy the event by watching the live stream on the official Hakata Dontaku YouTube channel.
This year, for the first time in five years, tourist grandstand seats have been set up, allowing you to enjoy the parade from the best spots.

• 5/3 (Fri., hol.) 13:05~19:00, 5/4 (Sat., hol.) 14:05~19:00
• Dontaku Hiroba (Gofuku-machi intersection ~ Fukuoka City Hall)

Tourist Grandstand Seats (located within Suijo Park):
– Advance tickets: ¥3,500, On-the-day tickets: ¥4,000 (day pass; all seats unreserved)
* On-the-day tickets will be sold at the temporary tourist information office inside Suijo Park. If advance tickets are sold out, no on-the-day tickets will be available.

@Kyushu Live!!
Dontaku Parade 2023 – Fukuoka streets come alive! (May 3, 2023)

Dontaku Flower Marching Bands

Marching bands of students, companies and government agencies perform.

• 5/4 (Sat., hol.)
• 14:10~15:40 (parade), 15:30~17:10 (festival)
• Venue: Dontaku Hiroba (Meiji-dori Ave.), Festival main stage (Fureai Hiroba, Fukuoka City Hall)


Special Guest Parade Groups

Festivals from Kurume, Shimabara, the Michinoku area, as well as international participants from Thailand and Indonesia, will join the parade at “Dontaku Hiroba.” This event serves as an opportunity for cultural exchange as festivals from around the country and abroad come together to celebrate.

• 5/3 (Fri., hol.), 5/4 (Sat., hol.) 15:21~
• Venue: Dontaku Hiroba (Meiji-dori Ave.)
Parade schedule


Hakata-ekimae Dontaku Street

Bitesize Hakata versions of the Dontaku parades, traveling 150 m from Hakata-ekimae 2-chome Intersection towards the river. This year, the event will see the highest participation ever, with a total of 35 groups and approximately 2,100 participants over two days.

• 5/3 (Fri., hol.): 10:00~11:30, 5/4 (Sat., hol.): 10:00~13:00
• Venue: Hakata Ekimae-dori (program)


Flower Cars

Three vibrantly decorated large trucks, known as “Flower Cars,” will cruise through the city, brilliantly illuminated at night. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the “Fukuoka Anpanman Children’s Museum in Mall,” the 35th anniversary of “Marine World Uminonakamichi,” and the “Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks & Avispa Fukuoka,” who are aiming for league victory and promotion to J1. Three themed vehicles will tour various parts of the city, operating in the Meinohama and Ohashi areas for the first time in five years. This year’s flower cars, running on next-generation biodiesel fuel with environmental considerations, can have their locations tracked using the “Nishitetsu Flower Car Navi” service.

Hakata Dontaku Nishitetsu Flower Cars, 博多どんたく 西鉄花自動車

• 5/2 (Thu.) ~ 5/4 (Sat., hol.)
• 5/2: 15:55~19:35, 5/3: 10:00~20:25, 5/4: 10:56~21:00
• Route: Around the Fukuoka City
• Operation Course:
• Nishitetsu Flower Car Navi:


Stage Performances

Groups participate in traditional and contemporary music, dance, song, and other performances at 39 stages around the city.

• 5/3 (Fri., hol.), 5/4 (Sat., hol.)
• Hours vary according to each performance
Stage map


Grand Finale: So Odori

The Dontaku festival culminates with the “So Odori” dance, inviting the public to jump in and join the fun. Let’s come together and share the excitement!

• 5/4 (Fri. hol.)
• 17:50~18:20
• Venue: Gofuku-machi, Nakasu-Kawabata, Suijo Park (head office), Dontaku Hiroba

Photo provided by the City of Fukuoka


Hakata Dontaku Trivia

Origins of Dontaku

The name Dontaku comes from the Dutch word for holiday (Zondag).

The origins of Hakata Dontaku can be traced back 840 years to the establishment of the Matsubayashi Parade. This has since developed into a fun celebration that is organized by Hakata locals. The event later became known as the Fukuoka Shimin Matsuri (Citizen’s Festival) since 1962.

Photo provided by the City of Fukuoka

Matsubayashi and Dontaku were suspended for eight years during the Second World War. However, the events resumed in 1946 soon after the end of the war to help rejuvenate Fukuoka. It is said that the sound of people marching through the rubble helped restore confidence among the locals. The following year, the Fukuoka Chamber of Commerce and Industry​ helped organize the first full-scale post-war Dontaku Festival.

A True Citizen’s Festival

On May 3 and 4 this area buzzes with activity when about 650 groups of paraders and performers, totalling more than 33,000 people, participate in Dontaku. Groups and individuals from all over Kyushu descend on Fukuoka to join these parades: local citizens’ associations, schools, private companies, small businesses, marching bands and drum majorettes – all dancing freely in the street while showcasing their unique costumes and talents. Several international groups will share their own cultures whilst marching in the parades. This inclusion of overseas visitors fits very well with Dontaku’s current theme – celebrating Japan’s diversity – and is an occasion for people from all walks of life to meet and wish each other well.

While the highlight of the festival may be the two parades, Dontaku includes a variety of other entertainment, including floats, nighttime illuminations, food stalls and stage shows. Around 30 stages are erected throughout the city, an opportunity for thousands of people to take turns performing traditional dances, folk songs and contemporary music. Closing the two-day festival are rousing renditions of the Dontaku dance that spectators are invited to participate in. The intriguing mix of ancient traditions and modern exuberance make Dontaku a festival unlike any other in Kyushu – a unique blend of past and present, much like Japan itself!

Hakata Matsubayashi

This parade is the origin of the festival – it hasn’t changed much in 840 years! It departs at 8:50 from Kushida Shrine on May 3 (Fri.) and May 4 (Sat.). This colorful procession is led by three gods of fortune riding on horseback: Fukurokuju (god of long life), Ebisu (god of business) and Daikoku (god of wealth). They’re accompanied by a group of dancing children, who, in case the gods get above themselves, sing the special festival chant ‘iitate.’ In their wake follow thousands of local people in traditional dress, all performing the Matsubayashi custom of greeting each other through song and dance. This procession has remained unchanged since the Middle Ages and has been designated an Intangible Cultural Property by Fukuoka Prefecture. This group also leads the main Dontaku Parade on May 4.

Photo provided by the City of Fukuoka

Photo provided by the City of Fukuoka

Dontaku Symbols

The Dontaku Festival might not conjure up images as iconic as July’s Yamakasa Festival (no loincloths here!), yet some images are closely associated with it. The following three items in particular can be found on many Dontaku tourist brochures, magazine covers and souvenirs, making them unofficial Dontaku symbols.

Shamoji: All throughout the parade participants can be seen clapping these spoons to the beat of traditional music. But how exactly did an ordinary Japanese kitchen utensil, used to stir and serve rice, end up in this festival? The explanation goes that the shamoji evokes the image of a housewife busy preparing a meal, rushing out to join the passing parade!

Niwaka Mask: This mask is used in Hakata Niwaka, a style of traditional improvisational comedy performed at festivals. The term niwaka itself is said to stem from a local rice cracker brand called Niwaka Senbei, which contained a half mask in its box to be put on during niwaka performances. This way the comedian, who poked fun at established social conventions in witty Hakata dialect, could cleverly hide his identity from those he satirized!

Photo: Fukuoka Convention & Visitors Bureau

Flower Hat: While the festival sports a huge variety of groups, each with their favorite costumes, one outfit choice that recurs often is the hanakasa, or flower hat. The origin of the flower hat is unknown – but what fashionable girl wouldn’t want to crown her cap with roses?

Dontaku Song

The Dontaku theme song “Bonchikawaiya” has seven verses but we’ve limited ourselves to including just the first one. Sing along as the parade passes and stun the locals with your knowledge of all things Dontaku!

“Bonchi Kawaiya Nenneshiya
Shinagawajoroshu wa Jumonme
Jumonme no Teppodama
Tamaya ga kawa e Supponpon”

If you’re interested, read about the history of the Dontaku song here!

Flower Cars
The parades of gorgeously decorated Flower Cars, hana jidosha, form an integral part of the Dontaku festivities. Three vehicles, each decorated with about 10,000 artificial flowers, approx. 1,200 LED and original designs that change every year, animate the festival atmosphere. Originally, tramways were used, but they were replaced by automobiles when tram service was suspended in 1977. At night the cars, illuminated by so many bulbs, are a splendid sight.

Car No. 1: Fukuoka Anpanman Children’s Museum in Mall
Car No. 2: Marine World Uminonakamichi
Car No. 3: Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks & Avispa Fukuoka

Festival Food

Seasoned foreigners who’ve visited many matsuri have doubtlessly already acquainted themselves with Japanese festival fare. For those less familiar with these culinary delights, here are three local favorites.

Ringo-ame: Visitors with a sweet tooth won’t be able to resist the promised sugar high of these candied apples on a stick, coated with a hot red syrup that dries hard. The result is a translucent, bright red glaze, a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds! Other versions such as ichigo-ame (glazed strawberries) are on offer in season. Don’t break your teeth!

Ikayaki: This grilled squid snack, marinated in a sugary soy sauce, is great for munching on as you walk through the streets. Don’t take too much time chewing though – its texture becomes rubbery as it cools, making it hard work for your jaw!

Hashimaki: A type of okonomiyaki (savory pancake) popular at festivals is hashimaki – literally translated as “chopstick roll”. The okonomiyaki is served rolled (maki) around a pair of chopsticks (hashi) and topped with mayonnaise, seaweed flakes (nori) and fish flakes (katsuo). It’s eaten much like a corndog and is easy to enjoy on the go.

Official Goods

Original Dontaku goods will be on sale, such as special Dontaku edition Hakata wood charms (kifuda), folding fans (sensu) designed by well-known, Hakata-born graphic designer Isao Nishijima, writing paper (ippitsusen) and more. Great for souvenirs!

• Fukuoka Citizen’s Festival, 50th Anniversary book: ¥2,500 (limit 500 books)
• Original Hakata wood charm (kifuda): ¥500/pc
• Writing paper (ippitsusen): ¥300/pc
• Illustrated postcards: ¥450/set (5 pcs.)
• Hand towel (tenugui): ¥500/pc
• Wooden spoon (shamoji) w/ illustration: ¥1,000/set (2 pcs.)
• Wooden spoon (shamoji) w/ burnt seals: ¥500/set (2 pcs.)
• Original folding fan (sensu): ¥2,000/pc
• Hakata Dontaku Festival Original CD: ¥1,000
• Lucky bag (fukubukuro): ¥500/set
• Hakata playing cards (karuta): ¥2,160/set

Sold during the festival period at the Dontaku information counters in the following locations: JR Hakata Station and ACROS Fukuoka
• Sales hours: 5/3 11:00~19:00, 5/4, 10:00~18:00

2012 Dontaku video by Dennis Medvevchikov for Fukuoka Now

Hakata Dontaku
Organizer: Fukuoka Citizens’ Festival Promotion Association (Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Fukuoka Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Follow the official X account for the latest updates and information as needed.

Originally written in April 2016, updated April 2024.
Copyright Fukuoka Now – including all text, photos and illustrations. Permission required to re-use in any form. Meanwhile, feel free to link to this page.

NOTE: The information presented here was gathered and summarized by the Fukuoka Now staff. While we have done our best to check for accuracy, there might be errors and details may have changed. If you notice any errors or changes, please contact us. This report was originally written in Apr. 2016.

Seasonal Guide
Fukuoka City
Published: Apr 25, 2024 / Last Updated: May 2, 2024

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